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26-07-2011 | Gynaecology | Article

Mothers who have difficulty breastfeeding are likely to get depressed


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MedWire News: Women who have difficulty breastfeeding during the first day or week after giving birth are more likely to have postpartum depression at 2 months after delivery than their counterparts who breastfeed successfully, show study results.

Extreme breast pain during breastfeeding as well as a general dislike of breastfeeding also identified women who were more likely to experience postpartum depression, say the researchers.

"Our results suggest that women with breastfeeding difficulties should be screened for postpartum depression, and women with depressive symptoms should be offered breastfeeding support," say Stephanie Watkins and colleagues from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, USA.

Early identification of women at risk for postpartum depression is important, both to decrease negative sequelae but also, to potentially increase breastfeeding success, writes the team in Obstetrics and Gynecology.

The group estimated the association between early breastfeeding experiences and postpartum depression in 2586 women who initiated breastfeeding after birth and completed a 2-month neonatal questionnaire that included the Edinburgh Depression Scale.

At 2 months, 74.3% (n=2185) of all women with available data were continuing with breastfeeding. However, 226 (8.6%) women met criteria for postpartum depression, and these were significantly less likely to be still breastfeeding than their non-depressed counterparts, at 68.6% versus 74.9%.

Among women who reported severe pain on the first day of breastfeeding, the odds of postpartum depression at 2 months were 1.96 times that of women who reported no pain. Similarly, postpartum depression was 2.24 times more likely in women who reported severe breast pain 2 weeks after delivery compared with women with no pain at this time.

Women who reported "not liking" breastfeeding on a 5-point Likert scale were 1.42 times as likely to have postpartum depression at 2 months after delivery compared with women who reported "liking" breastfeeding, observe Watkins et al.

"Overall, help with breastfeeding in the hospital was not associated with depressive symptomatology," they add.

"Screening and treatment of women with early breastfeeding difficulties may reduce the severity of postpartum depression and enable women to meet their breastfeeding goals, thereby improving health outcomes across two generations."

Commenting on the findings, senior author Alison Stuebe said that if women are struggling with breastfeeding, they should seek help and tell their provider.

"If they wake up in the morning and think 'I just can't do this another day' - that's a medical emergency. They shouldn't just say 'I'm going to power through this and snap out of it'," she said.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Sarah Guy

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